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Canadians, William Morris & the AWN/Acme Filmworks Oscar Party

I’ve been to two previous Oscar functions at the Canadian consulate general’s beautiful house in Hancock Park and couldn’t pass up the chance to go again. The luncheon took place in the lovely courtyard in back by the pool. They were prepared for the rain and had tents and heaters set up, making it comfortable on the rainy L.A. day.

Torill Kove is the center as she receives a special certificate from the Canadian government. © AWN Inc.

Torill Kove is the center as she receives a special certificate from the Canadian government. © AWN Inc.

I thought I was going to have Thursday morning to catch up, but I was wrong. Wednesday night Ron invited me to be his guest to the Canadian consulate general’s home for a lunch the next day. I’ve been to two previous Oscar functions at the Canadian consulate general’s beautiful house in Hancock Park and couldn’t pass up the chance to go again. The luncheon took place in the lovely courtyard in back by the pool. They were prepared for the rain and had tents and heaters set up, making it comfortable on the rainy L.A. day.

The consulate general made a brief speech congratulating all the Canadian nominees, which included The Danish Poet’s Torill Kove, Best Foreign Language production Water, Best Actor nominee Ryan Gosling, Best Screenplay nominee Paul Haggis and one of the sound editors from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Both Gosling and Haggis were no shows at the event. But Torill was quite happy to meet her favorite actress Laura Dern. But she was kind of embarrassed because she had one of those “why did I say that” moments when she told Laura Dern that she was her “all time favorite actress” or something like that. She shouldn’t feel bad; I think everyone in the industry has at least one of those moments. The first time I had the pleasure of interviewing Stan Lee, I ridiculously gushed to him at the end that much of my desire to get into creative endeavors was inspired by this work. I felt embarrassed afterward, but I couldn’t help it. But I digress. Then the consulate general introduced a member of the Canadian parliament. The parliament had passed a resolution formally congratulating all the Canadian nominees. Torill was presented with a nice certificate. I wonder if they know that No Time for Nuts co-director Mike Thurmeier is originally from Canada.

NFB composer Normand Roger chats with Ron Diamond Canadian consulate general's luncheon. © AWN Inc.

NFB composer Normand Roger chats with Ron Diamond Canadian consulate general's luncheon. © AWN Inc.

Ron introduced me to Marcy’s husband, Normand Roger, the famed composer at the NFB. He has scored such films as Tragic Story Happy Ending, Michael Dudok de Wit’s Father and Daughter, Aleksandr Petrov’s Oscar-winning The Old Man and the Sea, Frédéric Back’s Crac and Paul Driessen’s Cat’s Cradle. He had done sound work on Torill’s first Oscar nominated short, My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts. During lunch, Ron met a woman who participated in the same Jewish youth organization he was part of when he was in high school. He’s certain that she has to have been in some of the photos he has. As they reminisced about people and place they had in common, I listened in about Danish Poet producer Lise Fearnley’s trip to Africa where receiving medical treatment for her son’s sore throat was quite an experience. Later in the day, Torill said that Lise normally only gets about four hours sleep a day, because of her busy schedule balancing between family, working at the Norwegian Broadcast Company and producing other films.

Torill Kove smiles for the camera with Barrie Nelson and Marcy Page. © AWN Inc.

Torill Kove smiles for the camera with Barrie Nelson and Marcy Page. © AWN Inc.

Legendary director Norman Jewison was there and he congratulated Torill and told her that he loved her film. Pat Dillon from the NFB was nice enough to give him a copy of the film. Later I sat down with Marcy and Barrie Nelson, a veteran animator from such productions as the Hubley’s Windy Day and Watership Down. Ron had distributed Barrie’s films when he was 21 and was the first person he met in the animation industry. Barrie and a Canadian student named Jo, who is studying at UCLA, were discussing how animators describe things using sounds, which to many non-animation folk is strange. Barrie said he’s had many a weird look from people after a sentence containing “whips,” “blams” and “plops.”

With the rain coming down harder, Ron was gracious enough to drive Torill, Marcy and myself to the Oscar Showcase screening at the Aidikoff Screening Room for the William Morris agency. Chris Renaud was already there when we arrived. The topic of whether Chris lived in New York his whole life came up and he said he was originally from Baltimore, Maryland, but went to high school in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Allentown! I’m from Allentown, I said. He asked what high school I went to (which was Salisbury) and he had gone to Parkland, where my cousin went. Chris is going to introduce me to his friend from high school who works for ABC, because he went to Penn State where I went to college. Ron meets someone from his youth group and I find out that an Oscar nominee went to Parkland in the same day. How strange are those coincidences?

The nominees discuss their films with the agents from William Morris. © AWN Inc.

The nominees discuss their films with the agents from William Morris. © AWN Inc.

When the agents arrived, we headed into the screening room. As has become the tradition, Ron introduced the nominees. With the addition of agencies to the tour, the nominees are really getting a chance to make new connections and in roads. The crowd of a dozen or so was receptive to the shorts and seemed to enjoy Lifted and Maestro quite a bit. Afterward, the agents were eager to ask questions — surprisingly more so than many of the animation studio screening crowds. They wondered how long it took to make the films, which ranged from 10 months for Maestro and No Time for Nuts to five years for Little Matchgirl. Geza was asked what the inspiration for his film was and this time he said that it was originally created as an informational piece for his students to illustrate a film that used a single camera move. Geza and Tamas had a chance to hand out copies of their film to the agents, who all wanted a copy. One of the agents told Chris that Scrat was a very popular character with her kids. A Canadian agent had been at the consulate earlier in the day and was happy to have received a trusty NFB/Danish Poet lens cleaner, which they have been passing out along the tour. I must say as a man who wears glasses; it’s a first-rate glasses cloth, despite Marcy’s earlier hesitancy with what she felt was a strange thing to hand out. Well, now when my glasses are smudged, I’ll think — where’s the NFB when I need them? Making the event even more special was the presence of Hollywood fixture Charles Aidikoff, who was celebrating his 92nd birthday. He was proud to show us his birthday toy — a Lexus hardtop convertible.

After the screening, Ron took Torill, Marcy and myself to a nice jewelry store called First Hand. Torill was looking to accessorize for the Oscars. Apparently it wasn’t the first Oscar nominee to have come into the store that day, but the owner wouldn’t tell us who had beat us there. Because of the time constraints of getting to the AWN/Acme Filmworks party, Torill couldn’t make a discussion and was thwarted on finding new spangles for the big night.

We arrived at Joseph’s Café in Hollywood right on time for the party. I introduced AWN’s Andy Strum and Michelle Lima to Torill and Marcy. Before too long, the party was filled. Don Hahn and Chris Renaud came. Geza Toth had to attend the Miramax party at the same time. The best was their reactions to Roger Allers drawing in Ron’s black book, which includes sketches from Acme artists, guests and other Oscar Showcase tour veterans. Roger drew a picture of the Little Matchgirl from the end of the film with Scrat and the time machine popping up in the scene. Hilarious.

Bill Kroyer and Don Hahn at the AWN/Acme Filmworks Oscar cocktail party. © AWN Inc.

Bill Kroyer and Don Hahn at the AWN/Acme Filmworks Oscar cocktail party. © AWN Inc.

The party was a chance for the nominees to meet or catch up with other artists and animation pros like Milch director Igor Kovalyov, Frank Gladstone, Bill Kroyer, Platform Animation Fest’s Irene Kotlarz and Marilyn Zornado and Bob Balser, the animation director on Yellow Submarine. AWN’s Sarah Baisley shared stories with Don Hahn about her time at California State Northridge, where Don went to school, as well as her time at Hanna-Barbera. Don found it interesting how tough, but fun, it was to be in animation during the ’80s. He said when the surge in the ’90s happened and artists right out of college were making big bucks, it was veterans like him and Tom Sito who said save your money, it won’t always be like this. Again Don expressed his happiness about participating on the tour and getting to meet everyone and reconnecting with people he hasn’t seen in years. Don and one of the artists he hadn’t seen in years have been exchanging emails of their painting over the past couple of days since running into each other on the tour.

Don felt the same as many other Oscar tour participants of the past that he’ll be happy for whomever wins because the films are so solid this year and all the filmmakers are such wonderful people. Hearing stories, about Michael Dudok de Wit using tealeaves to create his latest film, makes him want to create his own personal film in his garage. It’s funny that he said that because the tour has made me want to animate as well. He encouraged me to do it. It’s inspiring to be around such talent. Ron asked Torill earlier in the day if the nomination would influence her next film and she said that in a good way it will push her to make a better film and take the time to work out the areas that she is unsatisfied with.

The party was a wonderful way to unwind from the busy week. The food at Joseph’s is always great and you have to see the cake. Tomorrow, the tour swings by Sony Animation for a studio tour, screening and luncheon followed by a screening at the agency CAA. And I know everyone is waiting for the wonderful pics, which will be up very soon I promise.

Mmmmmmm... cake! © AWN Inc.

Mmmmmmm... cake! © AWN Inc.